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A Letter to Indian Country In Honor of Tonya Gonnella Frichner

Tadodaho Sidney Hill, of the Onondaga Nation, sent this letter to Indian Country regarding the passing of Tonya Gonnella Frichner on February 14, 2015

Tadodaho Sidney Hill sent this letter to Indian Country, leaders of the world and the public at large on behalf of the Onondaga Nation.

It is with sadness and regret that we announce the passing of Gowanahs, Tonya Gonnella Frichner, Esq., Snipe Clan, citizen of the Onondaga Nation, at 12:45 a.m. EST, February 14, 2015.

Tonya was a legal advisor, representative and advocate for the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations, Iroquois Confederacy) at the United Nations from 1985-2015. She chose to serve the Haudenosaunee and Indigenous Peoples in the arena of international law, focusing her skills and energy on the issues of: treaties; land rights; the collective and human rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Sovereignty with a big “S”.

She was Founder and President of the American Indian Law Alliance (AILA), a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Tonya served by appointment of the President of ECOSOC as the North American Regional Representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) for a three-year term from 2008-2010.

She served as a board member and as legal counsel for the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse program from 1984-2015. Tonya was the current Chairperson for the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples. She was active as a board member of the American Indian Community House, the oldest Native American organization serving Indigenous Peoples in New York City, and of the Flying Eagle Woman Fund for Peace, Justice and Sovereignty. Tonya has many awards that include the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor, the Thunderbird Indian of the Year Award, the Harriet Tubman Humanitarian Award and many other tributes of appreciation and recognition.

Tonya’s grounding and instructive development came during the formative years of indigenous involvement and interactions within the United Nations system: from the Working Group for Indigenous Populations under the United Nations Division of Human Rights (1982); to the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (1993); to the first and second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (1994, 2005); to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (ECOSOC 2001); and to the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007. She always emphasized that it is Peoples with an “S,” recognizing the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples, equal to all other peoples.

During these years of the struggle to establish our independent right to self-determination and to secure our right to free prior and informed consent regarding our lands and resources, Tonya’s due diligence on behalf of and in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples around the world never wavered. Therefore we urge our peoples to be uplifted and inspired by her work.

Gowanahs funeral will be at the Onondaga Nation Longhouse at 11 a.m., Wednesday, February 18, 2015. Attended by her husband of 37 years, Herb Frichner, friends, family and the people of the Onondaga Nation and Member Nations of the Haudenosaunee. We welcome all to attend these services. She will return to the Mother Earth that she loved and cherished so well, with the respect, honor and love of our people.

Calling hours will be held at the Ballweg & Lunsford Funeral Home, Inc., 2584 Field Lane, in LaFayette, New York on Tuesday, February 17 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, February 18 at 10 a.m. at the funeral home and then at 11 a.m. at the Onondaga Nation Longhouse. Interment will be in the Onondaga Nation Cemetery located on Route 11A.

Condolences may be sent to the American Indian Law Alliance at aila@ailanyc.org or to 100 Manhattan Ave, Suite #1010, Union City, NJ 07087.

RELATED: Tonya Gonnella Frichner, Monumental Figure in Indigenous Rights Struggle, Has Passed